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Which two principles will secure us in all our actions,
whether they be considered,
I. As true. The folly of a sinner presuming upon
God's mercy, or relying upon a future repentance.
Or whether supposed,
II. As only probable. No man, in most tempo-
ral concerns, acts upon surer grounds than of pro-
bability; and self-preservation will oblige a man to
undergo a lesser evil to secure himself from the
probability of a greater. Probability supposes that
a thing may or may not be; both which are ex-
amined with relation to a future state.
III. As false. Under this supposition, the virtu-
ous walketh more surely than the wicked, with
reference to temporal enjoyments, — reputation,
quietness, health. Answer to an objection, that
many sinners enjoy all these.
Hence we may perceive the folly of atheistical
persons, and learn to walk uprightly, as the best
ground for our present and future happiness.
OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST TO HIS DISCIPLES.
"Henceforth I call you not servants; for the ser-
vant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have
called you friends; for all things that I have heard
of my father have I made known unto you." -
JOHN, XV. 15.
The superlative love of Christ appears in the
several degrees of his kindness to man,- before he
was created, when created, when fallen; whom even
he not only spared, but, from the number of subjects,
took into the retinue of his servants, and farther
advanced to the privilege of a friend. The differ-
ence between which two appellations is this,
1. That a servant is, for the most part, 1. Unac-
quainted with his master's designs; 2. Restrained
with a degenerous awe of mind; 3. Endued with a
II. That a friend is blessed with many privi-
eges, as, 1. Freedom of access; 2. Favourable
construction of all passages; 3. Sympathy in joy
and grief; 4. Communication of secrets; 5. Counsel
and advice; 6. Constancy and perpetuity.
In every one of which particulars, the excellency
of Christ's friendship shining forth, we may learn
the high advantage of true piety.
AGAINST LONG EXTEMPORE PRAYERS.
"Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine
heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for
God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore
let thy words be few."- ECCLES. v. 2.
Solomon, having been spoken to by God himself,
and so the fittest to teach us how to speak to God,
here observes to us, that when we are in God's
house, we are more especially in his presence; that
this ought to create a reverence in our addresses to
him, and that this reverence consists in the prepa-
ration of our thoughts and the government of our
expressions, two great joint ingredients of prayer.
The first is premeditation of thought.
The second is, ordering of our words by perti-
nence and brevity of expression.
Because prayer prevails upon God, not as it does
with men, by way of information, persuasion, impor-
tunity,- -an objection to this last answered. But
as it is the fulfilling of that condition upon which
God dispenseth his blessings to mankind,-
jection to this removed. As it is most properly an
act of dependence upon God; a dependence not
natural, but moral, for else it would belong indiffe-
rently to the wicked as well as to the just.
I. Premeditation ought to respect, 1. The object
of our prayers, God, and his divine perfections;
2. The matter of our prayers, either things of ab-
solute necessity, as the virtues of a pious life; or of
unquestionable charity, as the innocent comforts of
it; 3. The order and disposition of our prayers, by
excluding every thing which may seem irreverent,
incoherent, and impertinent; absurd and irrational;
rude, slight, and careless.
Therefore all Christian churches have governed
their public worship by a liturgy, or set form of
prayer. Which way of praying is truly,
To pray by the Spirit; that is, with the heart, not
hypocritically; and according to the rules prescribed
by God's Holy Spirit, not unwarrantably, or by a
pretence to immediate inspiration.
Not to stint, but help and enlarge the spirit of
prayer; for the soul being of a limited nature, can-
not at the same time supply two distinct faculties to
the same height of operation; words are the work
of the brain; and devotion properly the business of
the heart, indispensably required in prayer.
Whereas, on the contrary,
Extempore prayers stint the spirit, by calling off
the faculties of the soul from dealing with the heart
both in the minister and in the people. And be-
They are prone to encourage pride and ostenta-
tion, faction and sedition.
II. Brevity of expression, the greatest perfection
of speech; authorized by both divine and human
examples; suited best to the modesty, discretion,
and respect required in all suppliants; is still farther
enforced in our addresses to God by these argu-
ments, 1. That all the reasons for prolixity of
speech with men, cease to be so, when we pray to
God; 2. That there are but few things necessary to
be prayed for; 3. That the person who prays can-
not keep up the same fervour and attention in a
long as in a short prayer; 4. That shortness of
speech is the most natural and lively way of express-
ing the utmost agonies of the soul; 5. That we have
examples in Scripture, both of brevity and prolixity
of speech in prayer; as of brevity in the Lord's
Prayer; the practice of it in our Saviour himself;
the success of it in several instances, -as of the
leper, of the blind man, and of the publican; whereas
the heathens and the pharisees, the grand instances
of idolatry and hypocrisy, are noted for prolixity.
By these rules we may judge, 1. Of our church's
excellent Liturgy; for its brevity and fulness, for
the frequent opportunity of mentioning the name
and some great attribute of God; for its alternate
responses, which thing properly denominates it a
"Book of Common-Prayer," for appointing even a
form of prayer before sermons. 2. Of the dissenters'
prayers, always notable for length and tautology, in-
coherence and confusion.
And, after this comparison, pronounce our
I. The causes are, 1. The commission of the same
sius in one's own person; 2. The commission of them
against the full conviction of conscience; 3. The con-
tinuance in them; 4. The inseparable poor-spirited-
ness of guilt, which is less uneasy in company; 5.
A peculiar unaccountable malignity of nature.
II. The reasons why the guilt of that sin is so
great, are, 1. That there is naturally no motive to
tempt men to it; 2. That the nature of this sin is
boundless and unlimited; 3. That this sin includes
in it the guilt of many preceding ones.
III. The persons guilty of that sin are generally
such as draw others to it, particularly, 1. Who
teach doctrines, which represent sinful actions either
as not sinful, or as less sinful than they really are,-
censure of some modern casuists; 2. Who allure
men to sin through formal persuasion or inflaming
objects; 3. Who affect the company of vicious per-
sons; 4. Who encourage others in their sins by
commendation, or preferment.
Lastly, the effects of this sin are, 1. Upon parti-
cular persons; that it quite depraves the natural
frame of the heart,-it indisposes a man to repent
of it, it grows the more as a man lives longer, -
it will damn more surely, because many are damned
who never arrived to this pitch; 2. Upon commu-
nities of men; that it propagates the practice of any
sin till it becomes national, especially where great
sinners make their dependents their proselytes, and
the follies of the young carry with them the appro-
bation of the old. This the reason of the late increase
II. The persons guilty of this sin, "such as pro-
fessed themselves wise," (ver. 22,) not the gnostics,
but the old heathen philosophers.
III. The cause of that sin, "holding the truth in
unrighteousness," (ver. 18,) that the truths which
they were accountable for, viz. 1. The being of a
God; 2. That he is the maker and governor of the
world; 3. That he is to be worshipped; 4. That he
is to be worshipped by pious practices; 5. That
every deviation from duty is to be repented of; 6.
That every guilty person is obnoxious to punish-
ment, -were by them held in unrighteousness, (1.)
By not acting up to what they knew; (2.) By not
improving those known principles into proper con-
sequences; (3.) By concealing what they knew.
The design of this parable, under the circumstantial
passages of a wedding's royal solemnity, is to set
forth the free offer of the gospel to the Jews first,
and upon their refusal, to the Gentiles. But it may
be more peculiarly applied to the holy eucharist;
which not only by analogy, but with propriety of
speech, and from the very ceremony of breaking
bread, may very well be called a wedding supper, to
the worthy participation whereof there is indispen-
sably required a suitable and sufficient preparation.
In which these conditions are required, -
I. That the preparation be habitual.
II. That it be also actual, of which the principal
ingredients are, 1. Self-examination; 2. Repentance;
3. Prayer; 4. Fasting; 5. Alms-giving; 6. Chari-
table temper of mind; 7. Reading and meditation.
The author seems to have designed another dis-
course upon this text, because in this sermon he only
despatches the first part, viz., the necessity of pre-
paration; but proceeds not to the second, viz., that
God is a severe animadverter upon such as partake
without such a preparation.
OF THE FATAL IMPOSTURE AND FORCE OF WORDS.
Same subject, Sermons LXI. LXII. LXIII. end of
"Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil.”
ISAIAH, V. 20.
Here a wo is denounced against those, not only in
particular, who judicially pronounce the guilty inno-
cent, and the innocent guilty; but in general, who,
by abusing men's minds with false notions, make
evil pass for good, and good for evil. And in the
examination of this vile practice it will be necessary,
I. To examine the nature of good and evil, what
they are, and upon what they are founded, viz., upon
the conformity or unconformity to right reason. Not
upon the opinion, or laws of men; because then, 1.
The same action under the same circumstances might
be both morally good and morally evil; 2. The laws
could neither be morally good nor evil; the same
action might be, in respect of the divine law com-
manding it, morally good; and of a human, forbid-
ding it, morally evil. But that the nature of good and
evil is founded upon a jus naturale, antecedent to all
jus positicum, may be exemplified in those two moral
duties, towards God and towards one's neighbour.
II. To shew the way how good and evil operate
upon men's minds, viz. by their respective names or
III. To shew the mischief arising from the mis-
application of names. Since, 1. The generality of
men are absolutely governed by words and names;
and, 2. Chiefly in matters of good and evil, which
are commonly taken upon trust, by reason of the fre-
quent affinity between vice and virtue, and of most
men's inability to judge exactly of things. Thence
may be inferred the comprehensive mischief of this
misapplication, by which man is either, 1. deceived,
or 2. misrepresented.
Lastly, To assign several instances, wherein those
mischievous effects do actually shew themselves.
I. In religion and church,- such as calling, 1.
The religion of the church of England, popery, which
calumny is confuted from the carriage of the church
of Rome towards the church of England, and from
the church of England's denying the chief articles of
the church of Rome; 2. Schismatics, true protestants,
against whom it is proved, that they and the papists
are not such irreconcileable enemies as they pretend
to be; 3. The last subversion of the church, refor-
mation, which mistaken word turned the monarchy
into an anarchy; 4. The execution of the laws, per-
secution, by which sophistry the great disturbers of
our church pass for innocent, and the laws are made
the only malefactors; 5. Base compliance and half-
conformity, moderation, both in church governors,
and civil magistrates. A terrible instance of pulpit
impostors seducing the minds of men.
II. In the civil government, (with an apology for
a clergyman's treating upon this subject,) such as
calling, 1. Monarchy, arbitrary power; 2. The
prince's friends, evil counsellors; 3. The enemies
both of prince and people, public spirits; malicious
and ambitious designs, liberty and property, and the
rights of the subject. Together with a discovery of
the several fallacies couched under those words.
The necessity of reflecting frequently upon the great
III. In private interests of particular persons,
such as calling, 1. Revenge, a sense of honour ; 2.
Bodily abstinence, with a demure, affected counte-
nance, piety and mortification; 3. Unalterable malice,
constancy; 4. A temper of mind resolved not to
cringe and fawn, pride, and morosity, and ill-nature;
and, on the contrary, flattery and easy simplicity,
and good-fellowship, good-nature; 5. Pragmatical
meddling with other men's matters, fitness for busi-
ness. Add to these, the calling covetousness, good
husbandry; prodigality, liberality; justice, cruelty ;
and cowardice, mercy.
A general survey and recollection of all that has
been said on this immense subject.
PREVENTION OF SIN AN INVALUABLE MERCY.
"And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord
God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet
me and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be
thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to
shed blood, and from avenging myself with my
own hand.". - 1 SAMUEL, XXv. 32, 33.
This is David's retractation of his revenge resolved
upon an insolent wealthy rustic, who had most un-
thankfully rejected his request with railing at his
person and messengers. From which we may,
I. Observe the greatness of sin-preventing mercy.
Which appears, 1. From the deplorable condition of
the sinner, before that mercy prevents him ; 2.
From the cause of that mercy, which is God's free
grace; 3. From the danger of sin unprevented,
which will then be certainly committed; and in such
deliberate commission, there is a greater probability
that it will not, than that it will be pardoned, because
every commission hardens the soul in that sin, and
disposes the soul to proceed farther, and it is not in
the sinner's power to repent; 4. From the advan-
tages of the prevention of sin above those of the
pardon of it, which are the clearness of a man's con-
dition, and the satisfaction of his mind.
II. Make several useful applications. As, 1. To
learn how vastly greater the pleasure is upon the
forbearance, than in the commission of sin; 2. To
find out the disposition of one's heart by this sure
criterion, with what ecstasy he receives a spiri-
tual blessing; 3. To be content, and thankfully to
acquiesce in any condition, and under the severest
passages of Providence, with relation to health, re-
putation, and wealth.
SERMONS XXIII. XXIV. - P. 185.
OF THE NATURE AND MEASURES OF CONSCIENCE.
"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have
confidence toward God."— 1 JOHN, iii. 21.
It is of great moment and difficulty to be ration-
ally satisfied about the estate of one's soul in which
weighty concern we ought not to rely upon such
uncertain rules as these: 1. The general esteem of
the world; 2. The judgment of any casuist; 3. The
absolution of any priest; 4. The external profession
even of a true religion. But a man's own heart and
conscience, above all other things, is able to give
him confidence towards God. In order to which we
I. How the heart or conscience ought to be in-
formed, namely, By right reason and scripture, and
endeavouring to employ the utmost of our ability to
get the clearest knowledge of our duty; and thus to
come to that confidence, which, though it amounts
not to an infallible demonstration, yet is a rational,
III. Whence the testimony of conscience is so
authentic, namely, 1. Because it is commissioned to
this office by God himself. And there is examined
the absurdity and impertinence, the impudence and
impiety, of false pretences of conscience; such par-
ticularly as those of schismatical dissenters, who
oppose the solemn usages of our church, the neces-
sity of which is founded upon sound reason.
Because it is quicksighted, tender, and sensible,
exactly and severely impartial.
IV. Some particular instances, wherein this confi-
dence suggested by conscience exerts itself, namely,
1. In our addresses to God by prayer; 2. At the
time of some notable sharp trial, -as poverty,
calumny, and disgrace; 3. Above all others, at the
time of death.
I. Men are naturally prone to persuade them-
selves they can merit, because, 1. They naturally
place too high a value upon themselves and perfor-
mances; 2. They measure their apprehensions of
God by what they observe of worldly princes; yet,
II. Such a persuasion is false and absurd, because
the conditions required in merit are wanting;
namely, 1. That the action be not due: But man
lies under an indispensable obligation of duty to
God by the law of nature, as God's creature, and
servant, and by God's positive law. 2. That the
action may add to the state of the person of whom
it is to merit: But God is a perfect being, wanting
no supply, and man is an inconsiderable creature,
beholden for every thing to every part of the crea-
tion. 3. That the action and reward may be of an
equal value, which cannot be in the best of our reli-
gious performances, notwithstanding the popish dis-
tinction between merit of condignity and congruity.
4. That the action be done by the man's sole power,
without the help of him of whom he is to merit :
But God worketh in us not only to do, but also to
The light within us, or right reason, is our con-
science, whose duties are to inform and to oblige;
which is capable of being turned into darkness, — a
very considerable evil, and great danger of falling
into it. The cause of this light's being darkened is,
I. In general; every thing which either defiles
the conscience, or weakens it by putting a bias upon
its judging faculty.
II. In particular; every kind and degree of sin,
considered, 1. In the act; and thus every commis-
sion of any great sin darkens the conscience. 2. In
the habit; and thus the repeated practice of sin puts
out its light. 3. In the principle; and thus every
vicious affection perverts the judging, and darkens
the discerning power of conscience. Such as, (1.)
Sensuality, by the false pleasures of lust, of intem-
perance; (2.) Covetousness; (3.) Ambition, or
pride; and many others besides.
Thence a man may learn what he is to avoid,
that he may have a clear, impartial, and right-
The duty here enjoined by Christ is not opposed
to the Mosaic law, but to the doctrine of the scribes
and pharisees. For the matter of all the command-
ments, except the fourth, is of natural, moral right;
and there is no addition of any new precepts, but
only of some particular instances of duty. An an-
swer to some objections concerning the commands
of loving God with all our heart, and laying down
our life for our brother. Then it is proved, that
Christ opposed not Moses's law as faulty or imper-
fect, but only the comments of the scribes and
pharisees upon or rather against it. Among the
duties here enjoined by Christ, is to love our ene-
mies, by which,
I. Negatively, is not meant, 1. A fair deportment
and amicable language; 2. Fair promises; 3. A few
kind offices. But,
II. Positively, is meant, 1. A discharging the
mind of all the leaven of malice; 2. The doing all
real offices of kindness, that opportunity shall lay in
the way; 3. The praying for them. All which are
not inconsistent with a due care of defending and
securing ourselves against them.
III. This love of enemies may be enforced by
many arguments drawn from, 1. Their condition;
as they are joined with us in the community of the
same nature; or (as it may happen) of the same
religion; or as they may be capable, if not of being
made friends, yet of being shamed and rendered in-
excusable; 2. The excellency of the duty itself;
3. The great example of our Saviour, and that of a
king, upon the commemoration of whose nativity
and return this sermon was preached.
Lastly, because this duty is so difficult, we ought
to beg God's assistance against the opposition which
flesh and blood will make to it.
SERMON XXVIII.- Page 233.
FALSE FOUNDATIONS REMOVED, AND TRUE ONES LAID.
"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine,
and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a fool-
ish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and
the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and
it fell and great was the fall of it."— MATT. vii.
I. That is the best and surest foundation, being,
1. The only thing that can mend our corrupt nature;
2. The highest perfection of our nature; 3. The
main end of religion, as the designs of it in this
world are the honour of God, and the advantage of
II. All other foundations are false, such as,
1. A naked inoperative faith; 2. The goodness of
the heart and honesty of intention; 3. Party and
singularity, because the piety of no party can sanctify
its proselytes, and such an adhesion to a party car-
ries with it much of spiritual pride in men, who
naturally have a desire of pre-eminence, and a spirit
of opposition to such as are not of their own way.
III. Such false foundations, upon trial, will be sure
to fall, which is shewed from, 1. The Devil's force
and opposition, which is sudden and unexpected,
furious and impetuous, restless and importunate;
2. The impotence and non-resistance of the soul,
which is frequently unprepared, weak, and incon-
The apostle treateth of a weak conscience in new
converts from Judaism, (in the 14th of Rom.) and
from heathenism, (here,) in these words; towards
the understanding of which we must know,
I. What a weak conscience is; not that which is
improperly called tender, but the weakness here
spoken of is opposed to faith, and implies, 1. The
ignorance of some action's lawfulness; not wilful,
but such an one as is excusable, and the object of
pity, arising from the natural weakness of the under-
standing, or from the want of opportunity or means
of knowledge; 2. The suspicion of some action's
unlawfulness; 3. A religious abstinence from the
use of that thing, of the unlawfulness whereof it is
ignorant or suspicious.
II. How such a weak conscience is wounded,
namely, 1. By being grieved and robbed of its peace;
2. By being imboldened to act against its present
persuasion, either through example, or through a
command, with the conjunction of some reward or
penalty, descending from a private or a public per-
III. We may thence infer, 1. That none having
been brought up and long continued in the com-
munion of a true church, having withal the use of
his reason, can justly plead weakness of conscience;
2. That such a weakness can upon no sufficient
ground be continued in; 3. That the plea of it ought
not to be admitted in prejudice of the laws, which
are framed for the good, not of any particular per-
sons, but of the community. For the ill conse-
quences would be, that there could be no limits
assigned to this plea, nor any evidence of its sin-
cerity, and this would absolutely bind the magis-
trate's hands. Besides, such pleas are usually
accompanied with partiality, and hypocrisy, such as
those of the dissenters, which, upon the foregoing
reasons, ought not to be allowed
II. That this wisdom is in a mystery, 1. In the
nature of the things treated of in the Christian
religion, which are of difficult apprehension for their
greatness, spirituality, strangeness, as may be exem-
plified in two principal articles of it, regeneration,
and the resurrection; 2. In the ends of it: It is as
much the design of religion to oblige men to believe
the credenda as to practise the agenda; and there is
as clear a reason for the belief of the one, as for the
practice of the other. But their mysteriousness,
(1.) Makes a greater impression of awe; (2.) Humbles
the pride of men's reason; (3.) Engages us in a more
diligent search; (4.) Will, when fully revealed, make
part of our happiness hereafter.
Thence we may learn in such important points of
religion, 1. To submit to the judgment of the whole
church in general, and of our spiritual guides in